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Identity Dimensions and Related Processes in Emerging Adulthood: Helpful or Harmful?


Please address correspondence to: Dr. Rachel Ritchie, 11200 SW 8th Street, DM256, Miami, Florida 33199. E-mail:,



The current study evaluated the mediational role of well-being in the relationship between identity development and psychosocial functioning.


A sample of 7,649 undergraduate students (73% female; mean age = 19.95, standard deviation = 1.98; 62% Caucasian) completed measures of personal identity, well-being, internalizing symptoms, externalizing problems, and health-risk behaviors.


Results revealed that (a) identity exploration and commitment were negatively associated with internalizing symptoms, health-risk behaviors, and externalizing problems through well-being, (b) ruminative exploration was negatively associated with well-being and positively associated with externalizing problems, and (c) increased levels of ruminative exploration appear more detrimental for men than for women.


The study shed light on the mechanisms through which identity processes are related to internalizing symptoms, externalizing problems, and health-risk behaviors. The role of well-being in these associations, and the potentially deleterious “side effects” of exploration and commitment appear to suggest new and important directions for identity research.